190,733 of 250,000 signatures

To Helena Dalli, Commissioner for Equality of the European Commission, and the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament

Petition

Make Europe a safe place for all women and girls! We are calling on you to urgently ratify and implement broadly the Council of Europe convention to fight violence against women. Women and girls across Europe want to live a life free from violence and fear. Act now to make sure that the European Union takes concrete action to protect all women and girls from violence and actively fights this pervasive human rights violation.

Why is this important?

All across Europe, violence against women has spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic, making even more evident the scale of the epidemic of male violence in all walks and sectors of life, including at home. Intimate partner violence, psychological violence, sexual violence and rape, female genital mutilation, sexual exploitation and trafficking, harassment and stalking, including in the digital space, are the unacceptable everyday reality of many women across Europe. In concrete figures: 62 million women in the EU has experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15. Overall, violence against women threatens the security of half of the population in the EU, affecting over 250 million women and girls. There can be no peace and security in the EU while women fear for their safety in their homes, in institutions, in workplaces and in public places in Europe.

There is something we can do together to save lives: call for concrete EU action to protect women’s and girls' right to live a life free from violence.

The European convention to end violence against women [1] is the most a powerful binding tool we have in Europe to end violence against women and girls. It sets standards to give legal power, attention, and funding to efforts to stop and punish violence against women.

In June 2017, the EU signed the Convention, sending a very strong political message on its commitment to put an end to this human rights violation. [2] But, more than three years after this first step has been taken, the process is blocked: EU countries haven’t been able to reach an agreement on the EU accession to the Convention. And without it, the Convention can not be effective and women throughout Europe can not be protected.

The vast majority of EU Member States (21) have ratified the Convention. In all these countries, there have been positive developments in policies, protection and prevention of violence against women and domestic violence. However, a small minority of EU member states (6) haven’t yet ratified the Convention (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia) preventing progress at EU level.

Furthermore, auspiced by a fake-news campaign run by regressive groups, there have been recent initiatives this year in countries like Poland considering withdrawal from the Convention; or Hungary, proposing not to move ahead with the ratification. When some Governments take the path of inaction by not ratifying the Convention, or when they take proactive steps to withdraw they are backtracking on women’s safety and integrity. It means that they deliberately want to build societies where women’s rights are not respected, where women and girls are considered inferior and their bodily integrity is not protected.

Good laws can change whole societies. If the Convention is applied everywhere in the EU, it would strengthen all prevention mechanisms, broaden the protection of victims of violence and provide access to justice and reparation. For the Convention to be effective, the EU and all the EU countries need to access or ratify it and ensure comprehensive implementation. [3]

All Member States and particularly the country presiding over the Council of the European Union need to show strong leadership and commitment to ensure that the EU fulfills its promise.

After the EU elections in May 2019, more women entered in the European Parliament and Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the new European Commission stated that ending violence against women will be a top priority and that the EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention is a must. This is captured in the new European Commission Strategy on Gender Equality 2020-2025, issued in early March this year. [4] As per the new workplan for 2021, the European Commission will be working on a legislative proposal to cover specific forms of violence against women.

On 25 November, we mark the International Day for the elimination of violence against women and girls. Once again, citizens all over Europe will take up the streets of many cities to say loudly and firmly that women and girls want to live a life free from violence and also the fear of it. We might hear many statements from decision makers showing good intentions; but we want concrete actions.

Violence against women and girls has aggravated during COVID-19 lockdown times in most EU countries. This should be of utmost concern for all European leaders who need to act in a concerted way. We are urging leaders to take up their responsibility in ensuring the right of women and girls to be free from violence and to be safe. It is imperative the EU raises up to the challenge by ratifying the Convention and by adopting legislation addressing all forms of violence against women and girls.

Read more:

The Istanbul Convention is the common name for the Council of Europe 2011 Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and girls and domestic violence. It’s the first legally binding treaty in Europe which criminalises different forms of violence against women, sets a comprehensive set of standards to prevent violence and to guarantee the right to every woman to live free from violence. The EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention will send a strong political signal that violence against women is not acceptable anymore anywhere in the EU and set the basis for further EU action on this matter.

References:

  1. The Istanbul Convention is the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence: https://www.coe.int/en/web/istanbul-convention/home?
  2. Commissioner Jourová signs the Istanbul Convention: http://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/just/item-detail.cfm?item_id=80397
  3. The Istanbul Convention: A vital opportunity to end violence against women: https://www.womenlobby.org/IMG/pdf/european_coalition_factsheet_final_all_logos_8_march.pdf
  4. EWL's analysis “4 reasons why the new Gender Equality Strategy (2020-2025) is key in responses to the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath” https://www.womenlobby.org/4-reasons-why-the-new-Gender-Equality-Strategy-2020-2025-is-key-in-responses-to

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The new European Commission, whose mandate will last for 5 years from now, is in its first day at work, TODAY! The Commissioner in charge of violence against women, Helena Dalli, must learn Europeans are watching - that we welcome the Commission’s commitment, and that we expect real action, that is, that the Commission puts all its energy in ensuring the Convention is ratified in 2020. Will you let Dalli know?

Post a comment on one her Facebook posts: it’ll take you less than half a minute! You can even use these templates:

  • Dear Ms Dalli, congratulations on your nomination as the Commissioner for Equality. I’m very pleased President von der Leyen has made a clear, public, point that the Istanbul Convention should be ratified by the EU. I encourage you to put all the energy possible in that direction. Europe needs to be rid of violence against women.
  • Ms Dalli, I’m very concerned about killings of women and the broader violence exerted on women taking place every day in Europe. As you start your mandate as European Commissioner for Equality, I ask you to please do everything possible to have the Istanbul Convention ratified by the EU, now. Every day counts.
  • As the new European Commission is launched this week, I’d like to take the chance to congratulate you on your new position, and to demand real action to have the Istanbul Convention ratified by the EU as soon as possible. President von der Leyen made this point in her opening statement. Now it’s time for words to become action.
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The new European Commission, whose mandate will last for 5 years from now, is in its first day at work, TODAY! The Commissioner in charge of violence against women, Helena Dalli, must learn Europeans are watching - that we welcome the Commission’s commitment, and that we expect real action, that is, that the Commission puts all its energy in ensuring the Convention is ratified in 2020. Will you let Dalli know?

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Standing up for women and girls against the unprecedented backlash against our hard-won rights and freedoms, fueled by misogyny and hatred preached by the far-right, will be a tough, long-term battle.

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